2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is the third entry in the series. It brings in a new cast and places its setting on a new continent. The results, however, are not too pleasing.
With Paul Walker, Tyrese, and everyone else out of the picture (for now), Tokyo Drift centers on Sean, a rebellious high school kid who loves drag racing. So much so that Sean gets into trouble after one particularly fouled up race and is sent to Tokyo to live with his military father.
Sean is played by Lucas Black, who you may remember as the kid from Sling Blade. He grew up to look a little bit like a young Dave Matthews. And he definitely grew up… I couldn’t help but chuckle when his character is supposed to be 17. The actor was 24 when he played the role. He looks 28. There’s one scene where some girls are flirting with Sean and his friend exclaims, “Ladies, he’s underage!” I wanted to shout “No he isn’t!!” back at the screen.
With the move to Tokyo, Sean strikes up a friendship with a famous actor played by Bill Murray who’s in town to shoot a liquor commercial. Wait. Wrong movie. Sean actually strikes up a friendship with Twinkie, played by Bow Wow. I’m assuming at one point his name was Lil Twinkie. Of course, Twinkie gets Sean right back into the street racing world.
This mixes Sean up with DK (Brian Tee), whose uncle Mr. Kamata (the legendary Sonny Chiba) is a fixture in the Yakuza. Naturally, DK has a girlfriend Neela (Natalie Kelley) that Sean stupidly goes after. Just like Paul Walker does! And there’s also Han (Sung Kang), who works for Mr. Kamata and takes a liking to Sean.
Tokyo Drift introduces us to the practice “drifting”, in which the driver intentionally loses traction in the rear wheels to get through corners, etc… And that’s straight from Wikipedia, folks, so ya know it’s true! We even get a couple of monologues after how drifting makes you feel like a free person. Or some nonsense like that.
The movie takes a long way to get where it’s going and the first hour is quite a bore. When we finally get a pretty badass race through the streets of Tokyo, Drift makes a rather severe shift in tone that feels a bit jarring.
Although there is that aforementioned race that works and the climactic race down a mountain that is effective, Tokyo Drift is mostly weak sauce. None of the acting is particularly memorable and the screenplay feels lazy (lame references to Justin Timberlake and Beyonce stand out). Director Justin Lin takes over the franchise and he can direct action, but there’s not enough of it. Some of the production design is rather sweet looking so props to the team behind that.
By the end, we do get a cameo from a major star in the franchise. I don’t wanna give too much away, but here’s a hint. It’s not Viola Davis, but it’s an actor with the same initials. Perhaps I’ve said too much.
The original was a mixed bag that had a lot of solid moments. I found the second to be an improvement because it knew it was trash, but was often fun as hell. Tokyo Drift simply doesn’t have much going for it and it definitely the worst of the bunch so far.
** (out of four)
The blog series will continue with film #4 Fast&Furious.